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Here’s why pollinator gardens are important to Dawson County
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The Dawson County Woman's Club has recently added the Dawson County Library to its growing list of "pollinator spots" throughout the Dawsonville area. - photo by Erica Schmidt

The Dawson County Woman’s Club has been hard at work planting pollinator gardens throughout the county as part of their goal to both increase the number and educate the public about the importance of pollinators. 

According to Woman’s Club member Georgann Schmalz, the addition of all the “Pollinator Spots” throughout the Dawsonville area is one of the ways the Woman’s Club is seeking to help make Dawson County better. 

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Dawson County Woman's Club members Georgann Schmalz, Stacey Leonhardt, Edie Chodora and Linda Bostick install a new pollinator garden at the Dawson County Library on Earth Day 2021. (photo courtesy of Georgann Schmalz)

“The program, initiated by the Dawson County Woman’s Club, is designed to create small gardens with native perennials that provide nectar and pollen for our insects and hummingbirds,” Schmalz said. “Butterflies and moths, honey bees and native bees, beetles, wasps and many more bugs are vital to our vegetables and fruits that we grow or purchase.”

This mission to help increase the number of native pollinator species is more than just a county-wide effort, according to Dawson County’s UGA Extension Coordinator Clark MacAllister.

“There’s a big push pretty much nationwide right now to implement more plantings and a lot of it is based at the homeowner level for these pollinator plants,” MacAllister said. “A lot of [the pollinators’] native habitat is going away, so the insects are not there as much as they used to be nor are the plants that help sustain each other, so there’s a push to try to remedy that by creating awareness for the pollinators, the insects and how to get them here and keep them around.” 

According to MacAllister, many people think of pollinators as just bees or butterflies, but there are actually hundreds of species of native pollinators, including flies, wasps, yellow jackets and even birds like hummingbirds. With so much growth and development, the native plants that these pollinators need to survive are becoming fewer and fewer. 

“When a neighborhood or a homesite goes in there’s trees and shrubs and wildflowers that just aren’t there anymore,” MacAllister said. “To an extent there’s no stopping that at this point, but what we can do is try and encourage people to go back and at least replace some of those and try to encourage some biodiversity of insects and birds and other pollinators.”

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Leaders from the Dawson County Women's Club say they are hoping the new garden will inspire local residents to start up gardens of their own. - photo by Erica Schmidt

Anyone can plant a pollinator garden in their own yard, no matter how small a space they have for it, MacAllister said. 

“I think people think ‘OK I’ve seen these large gardens where it obviously takes people a lot of time’, but you don’t have to do that — you can put just a few things in your yard and if a whole neighborhood does that it makes a big difference,” MacAllister said. “You don’t need a huge space, a lot of these pollinator plants are fairly small and hopefully we can get people plants that aren’t too high-maintenance.” 

According to Schmalz, it’s easy for anyone to get their own garden started.

“If you have a small sunny area, consider planting salvia, hyssop, columbine, ox-eye daisy, black-eyed Susan, milkweed, cardinal flower and bee balm,” Schmalz said. “For more information, stop by the pollinator gardens at Rock Creek Park or Main Street Park to see a fabulous display of colorful native plants.” 

Schmalz said there are several factors to take into account when creating a pollinator spot, like making sure plants have a large open area with few large trees to allow sun exposure, choosing native plants that resist drought and provide the best nectar for native pollinators and choosing a variety of plants that bloom throughout the year and that have different flowers to attract different pollinators.

If you’re interested in planting your own pollinator garden, Schmalz said that the Woman’s Club would love to help or give advice. You can visit the club’s website at www.dawsoncountywomansclub.org for email Schmalz directly at georgannschmalz@windstream.net. 

“Members of the Woman’s Club will visit your spot and get it started with a few plants and seeds,” Schmalz said. 

The Dawson County UGA extension office is also always willing to help anyone wanting to start a garden, according to MacAllister. 

“Folks are always welcome to call the extension office,” MacAllister said. “We have plenty of information if they’re looking for pollinator species or plants that will encourage pollinators, so if anyone’s interested they can certainly reach out to us and we can help guide them in that endeavor.” 

You can visit the Dawson County UGA Extension Office at 298 Academy Avenue in Dawsonville, or call (706) 265-2442. 

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- photo by Erica Schmidt

Educating the public about the importance of pollinators and how to attract them is an important part of protecting both the pollinators and the plants, according to Schmalz. The Woman’s Club and their pollinator gardens were instrumental in Dawsonville’s 2020 recognition as an official “Bee City U.S.A.”, and Schmalz said that the addition of the pollinator gardens and educating the community about how to protect pollinators, like the bees, is an integral part of keeping that title.

Currently, the club has pollinator spots at the Bowen Center for the Arts, the Fancy Flea, Dawson County Library, City Hall, Days Gone By and the Farmers’ Market. They have also planted large pollinator gardens in both Main Street Park and Rock Creek Park, complete with illustrations and information on how to start your own garden.

According to Schmalz, the Woman’s Club will be organizing a couple different events over the summer to help teach the public more about pollinators and pollinator gardens. 

“Stay tuned for the Pollinator Spot Tour in Dawsonville on June 26 from 10 a.m. to [noon],” Schmalz said. “Each stop on the walking tour will present small, doable gardens as examples of providing our pollinators some native plants that they visit.” 

The pollinator tour will also include a driving tour of both Schmalz’s and Chodora’s personal pollinator gardens at their homes from 9 a.m. to noon. 

The Woman’s Club will also host a “Great Georgia Pollinator Census” on Aug. 21 at the pollinator garden at Main Street Park. According to Schmalz, the goal of the event is to get an idea of how many pollinator insects come to the garden in an allotted period of time. 

“This event involves choosing any plant and counting the different types of butterflies, honey bees, small native bees and perhaps hummingbirds that come during 15 minutes of observation,” Schmalz said. “This is a free event and great for children.”

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